STAFF have been left devastated after thieves went to extraordinary lengths to steal £600 from St Michael’s Hospice charity shop in Hereford.

The burglars cut through iron bars, smashed a window and then cut away bolts attaching one the shop’s two safes to the floor before making away with both of them.

The raid left a trail of damage costing hundreds of pounds, along with sad and angry staff, volunteers and customers.

The break-in was discovered when volunteers turned up for work at the Eign Gate store at 10am on Friday

Police were called before the big clean-up task could begin.

Volunteer manageress Mary Brown said in a statement: “Staff first noticed when they saw security bars had been cut and the window they were protecting had been smashed.

“On entering the building, staff found that two safes had been forcibly removed from the property.

“Staff and volunteers were all devastated and shaken by what had happened. Customers have also shown dismay and anger at those responsible and have also been incredibly supportive.

“A huge thank you to all of the people who have popped into the shop with kind words and messages. It really does mean so much to all of us.”

Working hard through the day to assess and clean up the damage, the team managed to reopen on Saturday.

Hilda Davies, a volunteer at the shop, said: “I was devastated after damage worth hundreds of pounds was caused.”

Hilda was one of the volunteers along with Philip Lilwall who helped to clear up after the break-in.

The charity shops’ customers have reacted strongly to the blow, showing support in strong numbers on Saturday when the shop reopened.

Brian Thorniley from Hereford said: “Not your average burglars then? Cutting through bars, then a safe bolted to the floor! Sad day for the hospice. That is a lot of money stolen from those in serious need!”

Chris Smart, communications manager said: “Security is being looked at, but the thieves did use a lot of force to remove security bars. The shop is insured.”

St Michael’s has been at the forefront of the hospice care movement since admitting its first patient October, 31, 1984. It has played an important role in palliative care and have supported many families across Herefordshire through very difficult times.

Investigations are continuing and if anyone has any information they are asked to contact the police on 101, quoting reference 0170s100120